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STL@HOU: Lynn fans 11 in six stellar innings

HOUSTON -- The Cardinals' 11-day, 10-game road trip wasn't going well when the team arrived in Houston for a three-game series. With a loss to the Astros on Tuesday, the series didn't start as planned, either.

But with a 14-2 rout in Thursday's series finale at Minute Maid Park -- which included a seven-run seventh inning and Astros outfielder Brian Bogusevic pitching the ninth -- the Cardinals head home with two consecutive wins, a decent 4-6 record on the trip and a little more confidence.

Lance Lynn earned his Major League-leading ninth win of the season, striking out a career-high 11 batters in six innings. He gave up two runs and six hits, but no runs after the second inning.

"It's good to get a game like that, where hopefully everyone's feeling good moving into the next series," Lynn said.

The Cardinals won by a dozen runs but trailed early. Jed Lowrie hit a solo homer off Lynn on an 0-2 pitch in the first inning, and back-to-back doubles by Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson netted another run in the second.

"It's just a couple bad pitches that they put good swings on and hit some extra-base hits," Lynn said. "I was able to stop them there and we were able to score a bunch of runs, so it was a good night."

Lowrie said Lynn really found his groove after the second inning.

"We got a couple of runs early, a couple of sharp base hits, but then it seemed like he kept the ball down really well," Lowrie said.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he could tell Lynn felt good on Thursday. Lynn struck out at least one batter in all six innings he pitched.

"The ball was jumping out of his hand," Matheny said. "He was blowing fastballs by guys. That's the kind of fastball that you've got to almost cheat for. Then you've got the movement to deal with, and his breaking ball was there too. It was a good day for him."

The Cardinals, held hitless in the first two innings, plated three in the third after a leadoff single by Tyler Greene and 12-pitch walk by Shane Robinson. Lynn, taking swings in the on-deck circle, said he knew Robinson was in the midst of a long at-bat, because he had been standing there swinging for so long.

"It was a good one," Lynn said. "He's always been pretty good at fighting and doing everything he can to get on base. He was able to have a great at-bat there."

"That's the kind of at-bats we saw in April that really kind of set these guys apart," Matheny said. "That just tends to lead to big innings."

Robinson's patience was rewarded when Lynn sacrificed the runners over and Rafael Furcal laid down a perfectly placed RBI bunt single. Robinson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran. Allen Craig singled to score Furcal, and the Cardinals had a lead that they would never relinquish.

Beltran hit his 16th homer in the fifth inning, a 392-foot blast on the first pitch he saw from starter J.A. Happ. The Astros' lefty exited the game a few batters later, having given up five hits, five walks and four runs.

Robinson took reliever Rhiner Cruz deep for his second homer of the season in the seventh. After a single and walks to Beltran and Matt Holliday in the same inning, David Freese hit his first career grand slam, a towering shot to left field off reliever Wesley Wright.

The Cardinals sent 11 runners to the plate in the seventh, scoring seven runs.

In the ninth, Freese hit a two-run homer off Bogusevic, a position player called to the mound to save the Astros' bullpen. It was Freese's first multi-homer game. His six RBIs tied a career high.

Matheny said he knew his team's offensive performance in the previous series in New York -- the Cardinals scored one run and were no-hit in the three-game series with the Mets -- wasn't indicative of its offensive abilities.

"I think these guys knew that, but still, you start to doubt when you're not swinging well, you're not getting results," Matheny said. "They just need to stay the course. There are going to be some fun offensive nights like tonight, but we had good pitching."

Matheny was also happy to see so many players get involved offensively. Every starting position player had a hit and scored a run.

"I think we needed to have a night where everybody was a participant in the offense," Matheny said. "That confidence just breeds more confidence."

The Cardinals were ready to get home, but Matheny won't know exactly how his team responds to its finish on the long road trip until Friday's Interleague game against the Indians.

"Two games is two games, and now we just got to keep putting the pedal down," Matheny said.

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